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You can slurp a big bowl of homemade udon at this food festival

Udon soup from the Tacoma Buddhist Temple is made with a homemade broth, chewy noodles, tofu, egg and fish cake.
Udon soup from the Tacoma Buddhist Temple is made with a homemade broth, chewy noodles, tofu, egg and fish cake. Courtesy

When it comes to soups, the more simple one is, the more difficult it can be to get right.

That’s true for udon, a Japanese soup brimming with a chewy noodles and a delicate broth made with dashi, rice wine, soy sauce and other flavorings.

“The balance of the soup is so important. It’s the combination of the dashi broth, made from bonito (fish), the mirin, the rice wine and the soy sauce,” said Crystal Inge, a second-generation member of the Tacoma Buddhist Temple, who has attended the temple’s annual Fall Food and Crafts Bazaar for most of her life.

She’s now one of an army of volunteers who work behind the scenes to create the annual food and cultural festival.

This year’s bazaar will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the temple, 1717 S. Fawcett Ave.

Udon is one of many items featured on the bazaar’s menu.

“It’s the combination and balance of that taste. There isn’t a description of that perfect taste. It’s like knowing a good restaurant. You know it when you taste it. When (udon) has that right balance, it’s not too sweet, and it’s not too salty,” she said of the broth.

It’s a recipe that’s evolved through the years.

“That flavor adjustment, that’s tough to figure out. It’s this fine balance between the salt, the sugar and the sake,” said Inge. “It’s that experienced palate. You know what you want. You know what you’re reaching for. If it’s too salty, add a tiny bit sake. If it loses that punch, add the salt and sugar. You have to do it in small increments, as we do when we’re standing at the stove doing our tasting at home”

The temple udon recipe includes the broth made from dashi, soy sauce, salt, sugar and mirin/sake, plus sliced fish cake, tofu and egg.

That recipe came from longtime temple member Kiku Morita. Even after her death, her recipe lives on every time temple members gather to prep for the bazaar, which also will have chicken teriyaki, rice curry, tofu bowls and a bake sale (do not miss the handmade daifuku mochi).

“There’s no exact recipe written down,” said Inge. Morita’s daughter supervises the udon process. Somewhere around 200 orders will be served at the event, a number that can vary year-to-year.

Preparing for the annual festival takes weeks for the volunteers.

Udon ingredients are prepped ahead because it’s so labor intensive.

“It’s something that sells out, and unfortunately we can’t make more. When we sell it out, we sell out,” said Inge.

Lesson: Arrive early.

The prep work starts days ahead of the festival when chewy noodles arrive in bulk and temple members portion them off into individual servings and prep them for cooking.

Udon is made-to-order at the festival, which is why a line sometimes builds. The payoff is in the bowl, said Inge.

“It’s one of those when you taste it, you go, ahhhh, you exhale and think, ‘This tastes like home.’”

Here’s more to know about the bazaar:

▪ Aside from the food, there will be an art, crafts and housewares sale.

▪ A special item for sale will be 20 antique Japanese dolls.

▪ Funds raised at the event go to support temple programs.

▪ Temple members are considering changing the format of the event next year with a different style of drop-in and take-out service.

Tacoma Buddhist Temple Fall Food and Crafts Bazaar

Where: Tacoma Buddhist Temple, 1717 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 5)

Admission: Free. Menu items priced $1 to $10. Cash, checks and credit cards accepted

Contact: buddhist.temple@tacomabt.org, 253-627-1417

More info: tacomabt.org

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